How Can Parents Help Kids Wear a Mask?

Cloth face coverings (or a face mask,

if you have one) on adults and kids over 2 years old can help slow the spread of the virus. Here are some ways to help kids wear masks when you go out:

• Help kids get used to masks. As much as you can, give kids time to practice wearing their masks before they might need to wear one outside of your home. Teach them how to put them on and take them off.

• Encourage kids to decorate their mask. This might help them feel a sense of ownership and control over the situa- tion. A personal touch can help make it more of a normal part of their routine, and make it more likely they'll want to wear their mask. Depending on the type of mask, kids can draw on it with mark- ers or put stickers on it.

• Make them together. If you make

face coverings at home, let older kids help you. There are no-sew masks that are easy to make, often with materials you probably already have (T-shirts, bandannas, etc.). If you sew masks, maybe kids can select the fabric or pat- terns for the masks they'll wear.

• Help make it fun. With younger kids, introduce a sense of play. Kids can pre- tend to be a doctor or nurse while wear- ing their masks. They might want to use a doctor kit and "take care" of a stuffed animal or doll.

• Have a few masks handy while kids play. This lets them use their imagination about how to use them during playtime. It also helps make masks a more normal part of their everyday world. You can ask your child to put a mask on a stuffed animal, and then ask follow-up ques- tions about why the stuffed animal is wearing the mask. Depending on your child's response, you can clear up any confusion and offer reassurance.

How Can I Help My Child During Medical Visits?

For older kids: Tell kids what to expect and why. Men-

tion masking before the visit, if you can. For kids old enough to understand, you might say, "I think we'll see doctors and nurses wearing their masks today. It's a new thing they're doing to stop germs." Explain it in a way that seems matter of fact and calm. If you will wear masks, tell your child,

"We might get to wear masks too. We want to stop germs too, right?" Knowing what to expect helps kids of all ages feel pre- pared and more at ease.

Explain the upside. Be honest, but focus on the good that masks can do, rather than the bad things a virus can do. For example, you might say, "Because of the coronavirus that's going around, everyone is doing extra things to stop its germs from spread- ing. Wearing masks is one of the ways we can stop the virus." Let kids show what they know. Invite

school-age kids to tell you the other things you already do as a family to stop germs. For example, prompt kids to say or show how they wash their hands. Give them a word of praise to help them feel proud and capable.

When kids know there are things they

can do, they feel confident and more at ease.

For younger kids who feel upset by masks: Accept how they react. Know that it's

normal for young kids to react with caution to things they don't expect, understand, or feel familiar with. Let them take their time to warm up to what's new.

Comfort them. Kids will look to you to soothe and support them. Let them sit on your lap. Tell them, "You're OK, I'm here." When you help them feel safe, they can start to adjust to what's different or new. They can start to feel less cautious and more curious.

Be playful and show love. If the moment

seems right, find a way to be playful with your child. While you're still at the medi- cal visit, is there a way to help your child laugh, smile, or giggle? Laughing is relax- ing. And a few sweet moments help bal- ance out the stressful ones.

After the visit:

If your child seemed upset, worried, or stressed during the visit, doing these

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things can help: Talk about it. After the visit, it can help

to talk with your child. You might say, "Everybody looked different today wearing those masks, didn't they?" Then listen. Let your child tell you what it was like for them. Find ways to praise your child. "It wasn't easy. You did great. I'm proud of you." Call out a bright spot. "I'm glad we got to wave to the nurse who took care of you last time. I think it made him feel happy too."

Invite your child to draw or play about

it. Together, you could draw pictures of people wearing masks and not wearing masks. Or make a play mask and let a doll or stuffed animal try it on.

Play and drawing can help kids work

out what they saw and felt. They are a way to rehash and rehearse. And that helps kids feel a little more prepared for next time.

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